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It’s all about the wai – again

The Strategy and Policy ORC meeting tomorrow (Wednesday 13th May, 1pm) is super important. We’ll consider the aims of the Regional Land and Water Plan, and an approach for its development along with noting several presentations and reports outlined a little below. Agenda is here. The new Plan is critically important because it is the first comprehensive overview of our water and waste plans since their inceptions.

This plan has to ‘give effect’ ie make happen, the government’s planning documents such as the RMA and National Policy Statement such as Freshwater Management. We have nearly four years to get it notified (Dec 2023) – sounds like plenty of time but in terms of all that needs to be achieved and agreed, it’s a massive piece of work that will supersede the operative regional plan for water, and the operative regional plan for waste. Both of these fail to manage the negative impacts of our activity on our natural resources (according to monitoring and staff feedback). Not only are they outdated, for some reason, neither have been reviewed since they became operative.

Under RMA section 79 plans need to be comprehensively reviewed every 10 years. The water plan was made operative 1 Jan 2004 (it has had plan changes, but no comprehensive review), and the Waste plan in April 1997.

These current plans also fail to comply with the government policy frameworks as outlined in the national policy statements so the changes are likely to be substantial.

As this work is undertaken, there are some real issues to discuss as a community. For example:

  1. The existing water plan has no method for determining overallocation, or timeframes for phasing out over allocation. This makes properly stewarding the health of our waterways next to impossible. I need to add, this is not saying farmers or urban authorities do a bad job – of course many do a great job, but that’s through their own commitment, not a robust regulatory framework.

  2. The current objectives in the plan don’t line up with the national policy frameworks. Again, there are no clear messages from our regulatory position. The health of our waterways is reliant on people ‘doing the right thing’ rather than a robust framework.

  3. Many people have called for ‘more science’ and ‘more data’. A technical work and monitoring programme, that collects and analyses information will be developed and implemented as part of the Land and Water plan process. But if you read the Freshwater 2020 report, you’ll note that it is extremely wary of waiting on data and suspects there is more to the systems of water than we can accurately analyse.

The National Our Freshwater 2020 report and its key findings is also on the agenda for noting. This document is part of a series – Environment Aotearoa – that examines 9 critical environmental issues. Our Freshwater 2020 is a detailed dive into the state of our freshwater. It’s not pretty and gives us all the more reason to get our land and water plan well shaped up in a regenerative direction.

We will also have a presentation from the Manuherekia Reference Group – we’ll be updated by Alec Neill and Andrew Newman on the purpose, approach and progress of their work, plus an update on the RMA Amendment Bill (implications for ORC) and an update on the Three Waters Investigation.

If any of this sounds riveting – as I’m sure it does – you are very welcome to join us on our youtube channel. The meetings are livestreamed at this address.

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